Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Most Important Filter?

If you had asked me a few months ago what the most important filter I own is, I would have probably said my circular polarizer.  I love the way they make skies blue and they're great for cutting down reflections.  I was so obsessed with them that I've easily spent over $1,000 on them.  It sounds extreme, but multicoated 72mm and 77mm filters from Heliopan or B+W are easily $160-200+ each.  

More recently however, I've discovered the genius of the graduated neutral density (Grad ND).  The advantage of the grad ND is the ability to get more dynamic range out of your photos.  For someone who hates processing photos digitally like I do, they save an incredible amount of time.  There's no need to try to recover highlights in RAW, use artificial "fill light" to recover shadow data, or worst of all, use some gimmicky HDR software.  I'd rather take one good shot than bracket 5 different exposures so I can sit in front of my computer and construct an unnatural scene.  

Grad NDs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and also differ by how much light the dark part of the filter allows to pass through.  Generally, you will see them marked 0.3 through 1.2.  A 0.3 grad ND reduces the amount of light by 1-stop, a 0.6 by 2-stops, a 0.9 by 3-stops, and a 1.2 by 4-stops.  A lot of companies make 0.3 and 0.6 grad NDs but the only one I've found with 0.9s and 1.2s is a British company called Formatt (available at B&H).  I own one of their 1.2 grad NDs and it is excellent.  However, it will vignette at the widest focal lengths on something like a 17-35 or a 24-70.  Grad NDs also come with soft and hard edges, referring to how gradual the transition is between the tinted and clear parts of the filter.  A hard edge is simply that; it appears to have a sharp cutoff.  Generally, I prefer soft-edges as the change is less noticeable in the final photo.  

Using a grad ND is fairly simple.  Ideally, you'd have one 0.3, one 0.6, one 0.9, and one 1.2, but the 0.9 and the 1.2 are really only for extreme cases.  To properly meter, fill the frame with the darkest part of the photo and meter, then fill the frame with the brightest spot and meter.  The difference between the two will allow you to determine what strength of grad ND you need.  Then, just put the camera in manual, put the filter on (I like the screw on ones for their ease of use), and set the exposure to the value you obtained for the dark part of the photo.  If you're shooting in rapidly changing light conditions, it is possible to meter with the filter on and it will give you more dynamic range, just not as much as it would if you have more time to compose.            

In the end, you'll have photos that appear the way you saw them with your eye, properly exposed everywhere.  And when everyone wonders how many hours it took you to manually blend the shot in Photoshop or use some cheap HDR program, you can think back to the extra 20 seconds you spent screwing on a piece of glass.  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Maybe someone is still checking this...?

Just in case someone is actually still reading this blog, I figured that I should throw up an update.

I've been shooting as a staff candidate for the school paper as of late, which is really sweet! I'm getting opportunities to shoot much more than usual and learning a bunch of stuff in the process!

My first photo that has been run is above, and the full story can be found here.

I know, I know, pretty exciting stuff. I really captured the mood of the auditorium well!

No big deal, gotta start somewhere.

And for fun...here's a shot of a sweet guitar painted by Peter Max from the William Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, AR:

Later Days,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Photos are up!

Hello Everyone,

The photos that Mak and I took have been edited and posted on our flickr pages. Here is the link to each album:



Feel free to explore the rest of our flickr sites aswell!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Finally Home!

3901 miles later and we've made it home.  We'll be processing the good pics and uploading them soon.  The roadtrip is an American essential and if you haven't done it yet, get rolling!  Our total cost for gas was $258 (all 93-octane too) and our total cost for the trip including gas, tolls, meals, hotels (Holiday Inn Express, Hilton, or a boutique French Quarter Hotel), and front row Phillies tickets was around $1,200 or $600 per person.  For a 6-day vacation, that number will be hard to beat.  

We burned 124.627 gallons of 93-octane for a trip average of 31.3 MPG.  That's with two people, a trunk full of luggage, AC running throughout the South, and the cruise control set around 74-78MPH depending on whether the speed limit was 65 or 70MPH. 

We crossed through a total of 14 states, including: PA, MD, WV, VA, TN, AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, and DE.  I personally had never been to TN, AR, LA, MS, AL, or GA before.  I've now been to 36/50 states.        

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fwd: Hello

Begin forwarded message:

From: Aslor Lanuzo <aslor.lanuzo@alpharheintalbank.ch>
Date: March 11, 2009 11:34:58 AM CDT
To: makary.hofmann@mac.com
Subject: Hello
Reply-To: lanuzo.aslor@yahoo.com.hk


I apologize for this intrusion; I decided to contact you through email due to the urgency involved in this matter. My name is Aslor Lanuzo, I work as a portfolio management officer with Alpha Rheintal Bank here in Switzerland. I need your co-operation in receiving and investing USD10.5M. It is very important that the claim is made, as the bank will report to the Swiss banking ombudsman anytime from now if it remains unclaimed. What bother me most is that we have some unscrupulous government official who will embezzle this fund instead of using it for good course. It is because of this I have sought for your assistance for us to both pull this through. I will provide you with detailed information on the modalities of this operation once I have your interest. If I don't hear from you within a certain period I will assume you are not interested and will solicit for a new partner.Accept this by responding to this email with your personal telephone number and contact address.
I wait to hear from you ASAP.

Thank you.

Aslor Lanuzo

Dumas, AR

Approx. Mile 1739. We just passed through Dumas, AR. Reminded us of
that root beer commercials a couple of years ago..

Dude getting interviewed: "I feel like I would be a great asset to
this company, Mr. Dumbass"

Big Wig Boss: "It's Dumas."

Also note, apparently it's ok to have one road count for four in

Ok, Dee's Diner just came on the radio...time to rock!

Our 2nd Presidential Library

Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, AR.

The end?

Mile 1609.9.

OTC Allergy Relief

Went and saw the JnJ office in Rogers, AR.

Walmart Home Office!

Mile 1421.0. $54,064,061,834 saved for families this year (3 months).

Cross Water Park?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Welcome to Arkansas

Mile 1155.0. Grabbing some fuel in lovely Arkansas

Graceland - What a ripoff.

$10 to park in a lot with no views of the mansion. Then $28 to take a
shuttle there? Weak.

Gibson Factory Tour in Memphis!

Lunch at BB King's Blues Club

Memphis, TN. Mile 1043.3.

A few thoughts on satilite radio...

I have to say, satalite radio is most definitly the road tripper's
best friend. No iPods to mess with, no changing stations from one city
to the next. You can listen to one station nonstop for the whole trip
if so desired. I think the best part is that there is always music on
that you don't have on your iPod. For example, when was the last time
I listened to Two Princes by the Spin Doctors? Well, most likely on
some vh1 show about 90's music, but before that, I wouldn't hesitate
to guess over two years ago.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. For road trips stailite
radio > any other source of music (besides having Wolfmother playing
in the back seat)

Anyways, we are about 50 miles from Memphis. See you there!

Sent from my iPhone

Nashville Dinner

Mile 825.0. Nashville, TN

Monday, March 9, 2009

We Are!

Additionally, Mak and I encountered a guy with a Penn State hat at
Sunoco. After I complimented him on his attire, I noticed his plate
read "PSU 2011" as he drove away. Oh those med school students...

Sent from my iPhone

Closer to home than you may think

Taken about 90mi outside of Nashville

Sunset on day 1. Mile 643.6, Knoxville, TN.

Welcome to Tennessee

Mile 528.5, Bristol, TN.

Staunton, VA

Welcome to Virginia

Wild and Wonderful!

Welcome to Maryland

Locked and loaded!

The Knight is lookin great! The GPS is set! See you in Nashville at
8:52pm EST!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

T-minus 8 hours

The Black Knight is covered in lovely blue tape! He is raring to go and can hardly keep himself inside the garage.

The adventure begins tomorrow at 8am...

So the adventure begins...

Its 11:39pm, and I just got this genius idea (thanks to Po Po) to start a blog to document our road trip. Mak and I will be traveling from West Chester, PA to New Orleans, LA with various stops on the way down and back.

If all goes as planned, we can update this blog from the road via our phones and add our photos each night.

So without further adieu, the first post.